Postgraduate Spotlight: James Fortuna

James Fortuna is entering the second year of his PhD. His research focuses on the cultural, social, and spatial history of twentieth-century Europe and the United States.

James (Jimmy) was raised in the Litchfield Hills of Southern New England. After spending his undergraduate years double-majoring in History and English across Appalachia and Andalusia, he continued to see double throughout the British Isles, first studying Classics in Dublin, then Modern History in Cambridge.

Jimmy has spent time as a mountain guide in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland, an American football coach, an on-air radio disc jockey, a ski instructor in Vermont, and has led scuba diving courses in every ocean but the Arctic – yet the semesters he spent teaching as a member of the Faculty of Humanities and Foreign Languages at public colleges in Florida and Connecticut remain his favorite professional experiences to date. He took a good deal of time trying to identify a PhD course that would provide him the necessary training and resources to someday make a larger, more lasting impact on the academy and he remains convinced that moving to St Andrews to work directly with Professor Riccardo Bavaj was the right choice.

At its broadest, Jimmy’s research is concerned with the relationship between state-commissioned art or architectural design and national identity. He is also interested in various instances of cultural diplomacy throughout the interwar period and pays particular attention to the material culture of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the New Deal United States. Three fundamental questions drive the majority of his work: First, how did these three powers engage with one another in socio-cultural terms? Secondly, how did these powers view the world, and how did the world view them? Finally, though perhaps most importantly, how did the cultural programs of each come to affect regular, everyday people both at home and abroad?

Entitled ‘Architectural Diplomacy, Cultural Heritage, and Popular Reception of the Fascist Involvement at the International Expositions of 1933-42’, Jimmy’s project will look to make sense of the way Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany represented themselves at six of the major world’s fairs held during the late interwar period. At the end of Martinmas term 2019, he was fortunate enough to expand his supervisory team and the dissertation will now benefit from the expertise of Dr. Kate Ferris and Dr. Sam Rose.

Jimmy prefers the music scene of Glasgow, the ales of Dundee, and the buildings of Edinburgh. As for his favorite St Andrews libraries, he prefers Martyrs Kirk on rainy days and the far end of the King James when the sun shines. He is a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the John Muir Trust, and both the St Andrews Sub Aqua and Surf clubs. He regularly contributes mixtapes to Ancora Radio, a DJ collective born of the scuba training and expedition group he helped found in 2015, and is excited to launch the Blue Belfry Project soon, an online database of overlooked or abandoned architecture.

He is currently based at the European University Institute in Florence through the Eramsus+ Doctoral Exchange Programme and looks forward to spending the next twenty-four months writing a dissertation his supervisors (and grandmother) can be proud of. Until then, he is happy to experience whatever comes in between.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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